Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release date: January 14th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 107 minutes

Director: Tony Goldwyn

Cast: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Clea Duvall

The Innocence Project

Director Tony Goldwyn first came across the siblings Betty Anne and Kenny in the spring of 2001 when Kenny was freed. It was Goldwyn’s wife who saw the story on TV and urged him to investigate it further.

Goldwyn immediately saw that there was a story that was different from the typical courtroom drama, something that could become an emotional detective story about family loyalty and determination:

“Betty Anne was a woman who gave up so much for her deep faith and belief in her brother, who could just as easily have been guilty. The questions for me were: What is that bond about? What is it that allows us to grasp onto impossible hope with those we love?”

Conviction is based on the real life case of Kenneth Waters who in 1983 was convicted of first degree murder for the death of Katharina Brow in Ayer, Massachusetts on May 21st, 1980. He was sentenced to life in prison.

ConvictionConvinced of his innocence, Betty Anne began an 18 year quest to free him. The mother of two who was unemployed and a high school drop-out went back to earn her GED then her bachelor’s, a master’s in education, and eventually a law degree from Roger Williams University. All this while raising her two boys and working as a waitress part-time.

Betty Anne then became Kenny’s lawyer. With the help of her best friend Abra Rice and attorney Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project, they began going over old evidence and re-interviewing the two ex-girlfriends who testified against her brother. Using what they uncovered, Betty Anne was finally able to get the judge to vacate Kenny’s conviction.

With amazing performances from two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank as Betty Anne, Sam Rockwell as Kenny and Minnie Driver as Abra, Conviction is a movie with a solid story which unfolds brilliantly on screen and remains riveting even though we know the ending. The driving force is Betty Anne and the way she relentlessly sacrifices things in her own life in order for her brother to be free. It’s more about her conviction than his in that sense.


We also see Kenny and Betty Anne as children who had to rely on each other in the absence of parents. They were eventually split up and sent to live in foster homes, but their bond never once broke. This is a vital part of their story as it might help us understand why Betty Anne would never give up on her brother or even question his innocence the entire time. Goldwyn recognised that her act was one of selflessness, love and loyalty and the kind of story we need to hear told:

“I felt that Betty Anne’s was the kind of story that people are hungry for right now — not about personal gain or naked ambition, but about one person acting purely out of commitment to another human being.”


The movie also highlights the fact that there are people serving time in prison for crimes they did not commit. Attorney Barry Scheck together with Peter J. Neufeld founded the Innocence Project in 1992 to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 265 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.

Juliette Lewis and Clea Duvall play Kenny’s ex-girlfriends, and both almost steal the show with their understated performances, so too does Bailee Madison who plays the little version of Betty Anne. The movie is scored by Paul Cantelon and features beautiful piano pieces by the composer which move smoothly from being heart wrenching to completely uplifting at times. His pieces underscore the dialogue and images without making them less or more than they are.

Story, direction, acting, cinematography and music make Conviction one of the best courtroom movies in a long while.

The film is dedicated to Kenny, who died September 19th, 2001 from a fatal fall after only six months of freedom. He was 47.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.